Uber covers illness and parental leave for European drivers

The "partners" are still not employees, however.

Uber and its drivers have been embroiled in a tug-of-war for years over stronger rights for the people ferrying passengers and food around for the company. Drivers want more protections and rights, while Uber has been reluctant to offer benefits. But Uber and Uber Eats contractors in Europe now have a little more security: Uber just rolled out a Partner Protection insurance plan, which replaces a previous insurance plan for Eats couriers.

In a blog post, Uber said drivers and couriers "are at the heart of the Uber experience" and "we focused too much on growth and not enough on the people who made that growth possible." The company says that drivers and couriers told it they enjoyed the freedoms of working as contractors (such as setting their own hours), but wanted more protection.

The insurance plan varies between countries, and the pseudo-benefits are divided into two categories: on-trip and off-trip insurance. The on-trip insurance, for which all contractors are eligible, covers some medical costs that public healthcare systems don't fully pay for, and lost earnings if you're hospitalized or suffer an injury while driving that stops you from working. It also offers compensation if you suffer a permanent injury, and funeral costs and bereavement payments in accidental death cases.

On-trip insurance kicks in when drivers and couriers accept a ride or delivery request, and ends 15 minutes after completion. So if it's a quiet day and a driver is T-boned while waiting for a request to pop up, Uber seems unlikely to pay out those on-trip benefits.

Drivers who have completed 150 trips over eight weeks and Uber Eats couriers who have completed 30 deliveries over the same time frame get off-trip insurance as well. This covers parental leave, illness and jury duty. The maternity leave eligibility requirements are a little more flexible for birth mothers, who need to complete 300 driver trips or 60 Uber Eats deliveries over six months. Uber is footing the bill entirely for the Partner Protection program, which rolls out June 1st.

Since Uber still classes drivers as independent contractors or "partners" instead of employees, it's not providing a full benefits package -- Uber is not matching retirement plan contributions, for instance. The insurance plan, though, should offer comfort to drivers and perhaps entice them to remain on board if they were thinking of moving to one of Uber's competitors.